The type of sailboat you buy should reflect the type of sailing that you plan to do, and where you will be spending the majority of your time on the water. Here are some questions you should consider before investing in that new or used sailboat:
How will you spend your time on the sailboat?
The type of boat you want is greatly dependent on how you will spend the majority of time on it. Are you looking to spend a few hours on the lake after work? Take a 3-day vacation to Blake Island on Puget Sound? Or do you want to go on a 3-week excursion up into the San Juan Islands or Gulf Islands?
The sailboat you consider should match your intentions. If you don’t intend on going on long vacations or numerous weekend cruises, don’t go for a large sailboat equipped with all the amenities of home. You might enjoy a smaller sailboat designed for daysailing, and rather charter a larger boat for that dream cruise to Desolation Sound.
How much do you want to spend on the sailboat?
The price of sailboats vary greatly depending on size, age and manufacturer. You can spend as little as $4-5,000 or over $100,000. Even within a certain size range prices can vary based on the type of boat you are considering.
Don’t forget that the initial purchase of the boat is just the beginning. You need to remember to budget for moorage, maintenance, insurance, new equipment or sails, fuel and all the other costs that typically go into sailboat ownership.
How much boat do you want?
Will you be sailing by yourself or with your family? If you are planning on single-handed sailing (or if you have young children), you may want or need to look at a smaller sailboat. If you do opt for a larger boat, look for features that can simplify your sailing excursions, such as a roller-furling jib/genoa.
Where will you sail your boat?
If you are on a large body of water, or one which can experience rough seas, you are probably better off buying a sailboat 24+ feet in length with a fixed keel. Small lake sailing, protected bays and inlets are perfect for smaller daysailer sailboats with either a swing keel or centerboard.
If you intend to travel with your sailboat, you will want to get a sailboat that can be trailored by your vehicle and easily launched at your destination’s boat launch.
Do you want to cruise with other people?
Many people buy a sailboat to become part of the larger sailing community. The easiest way to start is to purchase a popular sailboat that has a local cruising fleet. As an example, Catalina sailboats have a very active local and national fleet and are a great beginner cruiser sailboat.
Do you want to race your boat?
Sailboat racing is a great team sport and perfect for honing your sailing skills. Local Yacht Clubs sponsor sailboat races, and you can participate in a PHRF-handicapped race, or in a one-design fleet. If you are looking primarily to race your boat, research the local one-design fleets in your area (The Seattle area has a very strong J-24 and Thunderbird racing fleet) when you are considering which type of sailboat to purchase.
Whatever type of sailboat you end up purchasing, be sure to do your research, spend some time looking around at your local sailboat brokers and take a couple boats out for a test sail. If you are a first-time sailor, remember to take your sailing lessons, get the right equipment, and most of all…. have a great time!